December 1, 2003
In this issue:
1. Newsbrief: Negotiated Coaching Fees Works!
2. Readers Respond
3. December Editorial: Working as a Jazz Combo: Developing Spiritual Virtuosity in Organizations
4. More Newsbriefs: “Best Investor” Concerned About U.S. Dollar
5. Next Month: Another Take On the Left vs Right Fracas
Negotiated Coaching Fees Works!
John’s new policy of making his coaching fees “totally negotiable” is proving to be fun as well as inventive – both for him and his “Conscious Choosing” clients; “The negotiations are easy and creative,” he says, “and result in happy outcomes;” BFN subscribers may check out Coaching for more info; to contact John about coaching, call 415-437-6974.
In response to last month’s editorial reference to Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay “What is Enlightenment?” John is offering the complete Kant essay for Better Future News subscribers who wish to read it in its entirety; he found a translation on the Internet (translator unknown), corrected numerous scanning errors and made it available here. Subscribers to Better Future News may access and download it through this link.
Well! Spartacus is certainly popular! Many of you took John up on his offer for a free copy of the article he wrote for his October presentation to the IONS “Frontiers of Consciousness Lecture Series” – “Spartacus, Spartacus, Wherefore Art Thou Spartacus?” John points to the stand the Roman slave took about his humanness, a stand that we could all learn from more than 2,000 years later.
Organizations have traditionally been built around a military model with top-down hierarchies and command-and-control cultures. While there has been much to-do about “learning organizations” and flatter structures for corporations this past decade or two, the old pyramid-type organization model is still pretty much the norm – a directive approach.
In my own work of advocating “conscious leadership” where everyone on the team or in the organization steps up to lead when they see something that requires doing, I find the “listening” for what I’m proposing to be steeped in the traditional hierarchical-military structure. When one is immersed in the traditional system, one usually finds it impossible to hear something that goes against “the party line;” one usually only hears what supports or enables the existing system, filtering out anything that doesn’t fit into the already-established status quo. Thus, there is no “listening” – no ability to hear certain ideas.
Using a metaphor from the music world, most people who work in organizations still think like they are members of a symphony orchestra, relying on a conductor to lead them. Workers focus on their part, playing their “instrument” and
specializing in their contribution to “the music” but taking little or no part in arranging or conducting.
Tightly-controlled and well-rehearsed, the symphony orchestra is the epitome of perfection with each note so carefully crafted and each musician so skilled at his/her part that their music is predictable and replicable. When the performance is less than “perfection” it is usually the conductor who gets blamed, regardless of where the “fault” may lie.
When one is used to playing in an orchestra, it can be very difficult to imagine performing without a conductor in charge leading the group.
The kind of music group that is more exemplary of what I call conscious leadership is the jazz combo – pretty much leader-free and relying on each member of the combo being responsible for the music they make together. Each member of the group may take the lead from time to time and all the musicians play off each other. Mistakes may happen and the music might vary from performance to performance.
I like the jazz combo metaphor because it puts responsibility for the music on each and every member of the team. Jazz musicians will even say to each other that “We were hot today” or “We were a bit off this evening” accepting their role in
how the whole group played. This is a real team effort. All members of the team share in the reviews – good or bad – and they are all “stars” in the context of the whole.
Imagine a corporation in which everyone shared responsibility for the outcome as well as the process of producing that outcome. Absolute accountability by ALL members of the team may be unheard of in modern work life but I see it as essential if we are to achieve socially responsible and vital corporate cultures.
Recently I heard a man singing the National Anthem at a televised sporting event. I wasn’t watching the TV but I could hear him singing from the other room and found something odd about the music. I could find no fault in the pitch or the notes being sung. Technically, he was doing a perfect job. Then it hit me! There was no feeling in his singing – no soul! Technically-precise but without any passion. Then I walked into the room with the TV and looked at the man singing. He was a soldier – a young man trained to do things well who had probably put his emotions on hold in order to perform
perfectly and conform to his military culture. This reminded me of so many people who work in command-control
organizations where they perform machine-like but often lose their humanness.
Music virtuosos possess great technical skill which they usually demonstrate with lots of passion. Conscious leadership requires a different kind of virtuosity – ‘spiritual virtuosity.’ Like jazz virtuosos, conscious leaders are always practicing and
developing their competences – as leaders as well as followers – discerning when to lead and when to follow. Like the jazz combo, the whole team plays off one another, alternately taking the lead, following along, perhaps even sitting out occasionally.
Ask the people you work with if this jazz combo metaphor is helpful. See if the idea of leader-free yet leader-full teamwork – while seeming quite paradoxical – can penetrate the resistance of the established “way things are done around here.”
And, oh, by the way…doesn’t it appear that jazz musicians have more fun than members of a symphony orchestra?
Next Month’s Editorial: Another Take On the Left vs Right Fracas
“Best Investor” Concerned About U.S. Dollar
Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in the world who is frequently referred to as “the most successful investor ever,” says he is losing confidence in the stability of the U.S. dollar and the economy it underpins because the United States is running a huge trade deficit — close to $500 billion and rising rapidly — causing income to flow out of the country at such a rapid rate that it will soon become unsustainable (The Capital Times, Madison, WI).
Thanks to subscriber Robert White for forwarding us “The Best of Hubble” (extraordinary photos from outer space); “a most humbling experience,” reports John.
About John Renesch
Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach.
His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.